Inspired by the idea that you can’t beat ice cream at the beach, Elly and Tyler Hess are bringing The Baked Bear, San Diego’s famous build-your-own ice cream sandwich shop, to the Jersey Shore.
The Baked Bear is the first business to open in phase three of Long Branch’s Pier Village. Stocked with an array of cookies, ice cream and toppings, The Baked Bear lets customers craft their own custom treat.
Before the pair relocated to New Jersey, Elly worked in California while Tyler served in the Navy. Both were patrons of the original Baked Bear in San Diego. Elly and Tyler’s own Baked Bear location opened in mid-May.
“We’re really looking forward to becoming part of the Long Branch and Jersey Shore community in a strong way,” says Elly. “We’re happy to bring something new and exciting to the area.”
Table Hopping: How did you and Tyler meet?
Elly Hess: Tyler and I were friends in college. He went into the Navy right after school for four years and was based out of San Diego. I started working for Nestlé and was traveling around right after school, so we went our separate ways. Then I got a location out in California, we rekindled our friendship, and it bloomed into a relationship.
TH: What made you relocate to New Jersey?
EH: We moved back to the East Coast because we’re both from Pennsylvania. I took a job in New Jersey, and we wanted to be fairly close to family. When Tyler moved to San Diego, he loved living at the beach and still wanted to be close to water. We have absolutely fallen in love with the Jersey Shore, and now we’re never leaving!
TH: What made you want to open a Baked Bear here?
EH: Tyler has a lot of fond memories of San Diego, and he loved his time in the Navy. He lived in the neighborhood where the original Baked Bear opened—he started going there with his friends, he took me there on dates, and we always really enjoyed the product. We happened to go back out to San Diego for a wedding and went to the Baked Bear, just because. They had a sign saying they were franchising, and on a whim, Tyler decided to reach out to see what it was about. Things just snowballed from there.
TH: What was it like opening a new franchise and learning to run a business?
EH: It is quite the learning curve. There are all these other departments that have their specialties and help make the operation work. With this business, we basically have to wear all those hats. It took us probably two years to get to the point we’re at now. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s amazing when you’re trying to start a business how willing people are to help. The community has really embraced us and helped us get to this point.
TH: Your Baked Bear is in the new edition of Pier Village in Long Branch, right?
EH: Yes! [Pier Village] has their well-established phase one and phase two. In the last year or two they’ve built additional condos for phase three, and they’re now filling it with retail space underneath. We’re the first ones to open. There are a couple other places under construction that will hopefully open by the middle of summer. We’re excited to be part of this new phase.
TH: How has Long Branch responded to your new business?
EH: It’s been really great. We’ve been at the end of construction in the last month—doing finishing touches, cleaning, getting the equipment in there. It’s amazing how many people walking by have stopped and said, “We’re so excited,” or ask questions about the menu and different offerings. Even with the minimal foot traffic we’ve had for the pre-summer season, it seems like people are excited for something new.
TH: What’s on the menu at The Baked Bear?
EH: It’s broken into four steps. The first thing you’ll see is our freshly baked cookies; you can pick two of the same cookies, you can mix and match, or you can get brownies. Then you pick from the ice cream case—we have a lot of classic flavors but also unique ones that are original Baked Bear recipes. Then you can pick from an assortment of toppings. A lot of the ice cream sandwiches are rolled in sprinkles or chips or fruity pebbles. In step four, they’ll ask if you want it warmed or hot pressed. We essentially put the sandwich in a little panini press. It seems counterintuitive because people think it’s going to melt the ice cream, but it’s really to warm the cookies a little so it’s like they’re fresh out of the oven. It’s a lot of options, [which] can sometimes catch people off guard.
TH: Do you and Tyler have a favorite combination?
EH: Tyler’s favorite is with the gooey butter cake cookies, which are more of a cake mix base so they’re very soft and fluffy. And there’s a vanilla-based ice cream called blackberry crumble that’s got blackberry swirl and pie crust pieces. I’m more of a chocolate person. I also love mint chocolate chip ice cream. Brownies and mint chocolate chip ice cream are a classic.
TH: It seems you can’t go wrong with whatever you pick.
EH: You really can’t! What’s funny is people try to come up with a combination that’s in the right flavor ballpark, but honestly, you can mix and match anything, and it will taste great.
TH: Did you ever see yourself opening a business?
EH: Personally, I did not, but Tyler always had in the back of his mind that he wanted to do something on his own. Now that we’re open, I’m really excited that he pushed me out of my comfort zone. Tyler always says that in the Navy, when he was in a heavy operations role, there were all these guidelines and procedures, and if you follow those, you’ll be successful. The franchise is kind of set up that way too. We saw what was really working well [for The Baked Bear] in San Diego and thought, let’s do it here.
TH: What are you most looking forward to in Long Branch?
EH: We’re both transplants to the area, so this has been great for us to get to know people and add value to the community. Tyler has fond memories of growing up when his family would go to the southern Jersey Shore for vacations—they would go out for ice cream every single night. Being able to see people make those kinds of memories with their families and create that excitement for them is really special for him.